Women offer resources to women in transition

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published February 28, 2018

 Walker Banks

Walker Banks

TROY — It can be daunting for women who have been out of the workforce for a few years to start again when they must — due to death, divorce, unemployment or incarceration of a spouse, or other significant life events. 

The JVS Women to Work program aims to help women who have been out of the workforce and now must find employment. 

JVS, which stands for Jewish Vocational Services, “helps people meet life challenges affecting their self-sufficiency through counseling, training and support services in accordance with Jewish values of equal opportunity, compassion, responsibility and the steadfast belief that the best way to help people is to make it possible for them to help themselves,” states the organization’s website.

“The agency first began as a women’s employment bureau in 1926 and soon expanded to help ‘hard to place’ job applicants, including people with disabilities and Holocaust survivors. After World War II, JVS placed discharged and disabled soldiers in employment, and refugees fleeing Europe were assisted,” the website states. 

The JVS Women to Work program helps women identify their interests, assess their skills, and find and land jobs, said attorney Kristen Gross. “Maybe there’s something they hadn’t considered.” 

Gross, with Roz Blanck and Linda Schlesinger-Wagner, serve as co-chairs for JVS’ 10th annual Trade Secrets event, a fundraiser that will take place at 6 p.m. March 6 at the Detroit Marriott Troy, 200 W. Big Beaver Road, to support JVS Women to Work and other programs for women. 

The JVS Women to Work program has served more than 2,200 women across metropolitan Detroit over the past 25 years. Paula Perelman, a recent graduate of the program, will share her success story at the event and will be honored for her accomplishments. 

“After completing the program, 85 percent of our participants either find jobs or enroll in further training or education to meet their goals,” said Judy Richmond, JVS Women to Work coordinator.

“They achieve their career goal and they are able to support their family,” Gross said. “I don’t believe there’s any better charity to give them the ability to do (this) for themselves.” 

Gross noted that Trade Secrets is a “nice networking event, with fabulous prizes and fun.” 

She described this year’s keynote speaker, Southfield resident Camille Walker Banks, as “captivating.” 

Walker Banks serves as the executive director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Detroit — Wayne State University program. 

According to the 10ksbDetroit.com website, under Walker Banks’ leadership, “Michigan companies participating in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program have outpaced the U.S. small businesses’ and 10,000 Small Businesses’ national averages in increasing revenues and job creation.”

Before she joined 10KSB, Walker Banks served as a business development manager for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and as the economic development facilitator/community development supervisor for the city of Madison Heights.  

“In these roles, (Walker Banks) implemented key state and local initiatives around economic development and community revitalization, resulting in over $5.5 billion in new capital investment and more than 5,000 new jobs created in underserved communities during the economic downturn,” the website states. 

“Camille has an incredible talent for encouraging and inspiring business owners,” said Schlesinger-Wagner, founder of skinnytees, a sponsor of Trade Secrets, in a prepared statement. “If you need something, just ask Camille. She has a never-ending catalog of people, places and things to draw upon,” she said. 

“This is a third career for me,” Walker Banks said. “I will talk about that in the context of how to write your own story and give a call of action to support each other and small business owners.” 

She said she will share “trade secrets on how to get started and how to move forward.” 

Walker Banks noted that it’s an auspicious time for this region.

She recently attended events in Washington, D.C., and “all eyes are on Detroit,” she said. “We got a lot of mention as ‘the comeback city.’”

Walker Banks said that three-quarters of business owners who have gone through the Goldman Sachs 10KSB program have reported increased revenue, and half have added jobs. 

“That’s how small business is playing a role in the resurgence of the region,” Walker Banks said. “It’s about taking responsibility for revitalizing our neighborhoods. Everyone is watching us. Let’s show them.” 

Ticket prices for the event start at $150 and include dinner. For ticket and sponsorship information, visit jvsdet.org/tradesecrets or contact Judy Strongman at (248) 233-4213.

For more information on the JVS Women to Work program, visit jvsdet.org or call (248) 233-4232.